New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pays tribute to late Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto

Adern recalls her personal experience of meeting the late leader

By Agencies

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Published: Sat 28 May 2022, 6:08 PM

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, paid glowing tributes to the late Benazir Bhutto, former two-time prime minister of Pakistan, during her speech at Harvard University’s commencement ceremony on Thursday.

While Ardern appreciated some students from New Zealander who were part of the graduation ceremony, she spoke more about her “connection” Benazir Bhutto. She appreciated what Benazir said 33 years ago and believed that indeed “democracy is fragile”.

“In June 1989, the prime minister of Pakistan stood on this spot and delivered the commencement address titled ‘Democratic Nations Must Unite’. She spoke about her journey, the importance of citizenry, representative government, human rights and democracy,” Ardern said.

She recalled her personal experience of meeting the slain leader. “I met Benazir Bhutto in Geneva in June of 2007. We both attended a conference that drew together progressive parties from around the world. Seven months later she was assassinated,” Ardern said.

“Now there will be opinions and differing perspectives written about all of us as political leaders. Two things that history will not contest about Benazir Bhutto — she was the first Muslim female prime minister elected in an Islamic country where women in power was a rare thing. She was also the first to give birth in office,” she added.

“The second and only other leader to have given birth in office, almost 30 years later, was me,” said Ardern.

She shared that her daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, was born on June 21, 2018, which happens to be Bhutto’s birthday. “The path she carved as a woman feels as relevant today as it was decades ago. And so too is the message she shared here in this place. She said in her speech in 1989 the following, ‘We must realise that democracy can be fragile’. Now I read those words as I sit in my office in Wellington, New Zealand, a world away from Pakistan. And while the reasons that gave rise to her words then were vastly different, they still ring true.”

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